With their backs to the wall after blowing up an engine on the first qualifying run and skipping the second one, Cory Reed and Team Liberty rebounded Saturday morning with a 6.97 to move into the Lucas Oil Nationals Pro Stock Motorcycle field for good.
At Brainerd International Raceway, where the quickest runs in Top Fuel and Funny Car history were recorded Friday night, Reed wheeled his Team Liberty machine to a decent 6.97 at 187 mph Saturday morning and a consistent 6.98 at 186 that afternoon to solidify his position in the final lineup.
Pitted against Top 10 rider and No. 4 qualifier Scotty Pollacheck in the first round, Reed left Pollacheck at the line and sped away for his first round-win of the season and the first ever for Team Liberty, 6.94 to 6.96. “I looked over somewhere in high gear and nobody was there,” he said. “I had to look behind me to find him. That was the best feeling ever: we’re going to win. Actually, I felt that way even before I ran him, when I woke up Sunday morning. That’s the first time I can say I honestly felt that way all year.”
Reed fell in the next round to year-long nemesis and eventual runner-up L.E. Tonglet, the runaway points leader, who has won as many races this year as all other riders combined – but not before getting another holeshot head start. Reed opened up a huge early advantage, but Tonglet drove around him with, naturally, his strongest run of the weekend, a 6.85. Reed trailed with a 6.96, but at that point, it almost didn’t matter.
“I felt like I won the whole race when we won the first round,” Reed said. “I didn’t even need to make another run after that. It’s tough, starting a new team like this. We knew it was going to be, and it has been. But after a weekend like this, I can finally see what’s ahead of us down the road.”